Lugar: ‘This could get ugly’

LUGAR: ‘THIS COULD GET UGLY’…. Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), the outgoing chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has been surprisingly willing to break with the Bush White House on foreign policy and national security issues, far more than one might expect for a conservative Republican from a reliably “red” state.

Lugar, for example, was one of the first lawmakers to publicly criticize the Bush administration’s practice of paying Iraqi news outlets to publish American propaganda. Soon after, Lugar told Newsweek that Bush should be more like Bill Clinton when it comes to being exposed to a variety competing ideas. Lugar has even pushed back against some Donald Rumsfeld’s less defensible comments.

But today, responding to the notion of an escalation in Iraq, Lugar went a little further than he usually does.

Today on Fox News Sunday, Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN), the outgoing chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said President Bush should have congressional support before he announces any plan for escalation in Iraq. “[I]n the past, the administration has been inclined not to disregard Congress but to not take Congress very seriously. I think this time Congress has to be taken seriously.”

If Bush ignores Congress, Lugar said he should expect “a lot of hearings, a lot of study, a lot of criticism,” and “demands for subpoenas.” Fox host Chris Wallace said, “You saying this could get ugly.” Lugar replied, “Yes, it could.”

Asked directly if he supports sending more troops, Lugar said he didn’t know, but recommended a “retreat” in which members of the Foreign Relations Committee studies the president’s plan and responds to it, before the plan is implemented.

I hope Lugar isn’t holding is breath, waiting for the White House’s call. It’s not coming.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.